Oh say, can you dream?

Madison Sam, Contributing Writer

Shivani Bondada

“Where are you from?” 

“Oh, I’m from New York. I was born there,” he says. Added as an afterthought, he then says: “well, I lived in Peru.”

“Where’s Peru?”

I find it completely ironic that some of us focus so much on the U.S. when they never focus on us. 

“You know, Machu Picchu? Llamas?” 

“Oh! Brazil?”

The world places a lot of attention on the United States — myself included, for the majority of my life. Currently though, watching the U.S. is like watching a gory scene ⁠— I can’t take my eyes off of it. A man is getting stepped on, and I can’t stop watching. I feel horrible. He’s yelling; he’s begging for his life. His eyes, why are they so lifeless? Oh my god, they’re also playing minstrel music in the background. Is that [insert racist, sexist, homophobic, out-of-touch politician] I see?

Even as I watch on and the innocence leaves my eyes, it is only the U.S. in my field of vision. A part of me whispers, “That’s where I’m going to college. I love the U.S. I am proud to be a citizen.” Another part of me murmurs, “Oh my god. The healthcare system is a mess. I’m going to drown in debt. Why are my rights being debated?”

At least with Peru, I understand how socially inept the country is. I know that gay people won’t have marriage rights anytime soon. I know that, at least in my lifetime, I will never walk the streets alone at night. I could talk for hours about the lack of clean water, the lack of infrastructure, the disaster that is politics. 

But, ever since I first cast my ever-persistent gaze in the direction of the United States of America, I expected better from it. Having dreamt so much of the U.S., to see it in this decrepit state is incredibly frustrating. Behind those towering skyscrapers lay the same issues that plague Peru, just in a milder way⁠. Even knowing this, I continue to look. I continue to immerse myself in mostly American and English-speaking media, pressing “not interested” when something from Peru pops up onto my TikTok feed. My mom plays iHeartRADIO in the car and I always, without fail, remark on how much better U.S. commercials are than the Peruvian ones. 

A respite. A different culture. A dream. 

To the international watchers, the American Dream is different. It’s not about the suburban home, two children, wife, dog, fishing nor Tesla. It’s about a better future. The land of opportunity. It’s about your children studying in the U.S., next to all those “gringos” and their fancy English. It’s about landing that job, the one that allows you to send money home. It’s about survival, away from your home country, the one that continues to disappoint.

Let’s play a little game. It’s called, “Why Did They Leave Their Country for the U.S.?”

Take your guess!

  1. War
  2. High poverty rates
  3. Crime
  4. Homophobia
  5. Sexism
  6. Lack of quality public education
  7. Lack of government support
  8. All of the above + more!

So many people immigrate to the U.S. carrying with them the hopes and dreams of an entire generation but are met with distaste and isolation. I’m privileged enough to be a citizen already. Born and raised on that sweet, sweet, American Dream mentality. 

Others have to fight their way into the U.S.. Even if life throws well-aimed bricks at them — those from the border — they continue watching. Looking. Dreaming. 

Even if the U.S. isn’t all what we expected, we continue watching. Looking. Dreaming.

I don’t hate the U.S.. I hate the dream that still has me in a chokehold. A thing around my neck⁠ — coiling and slimy and ever-present. Even as I suffocate, I look up to the north. I hate that I only applied to universities in the U.S.. I hate that, above all, even if I hate the U.S., I will never move back to Peru.  

Extra: Do you want homework? Listen to “Por qué no se van” by Los Prisioneros.

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